SleepyHead – Improving well-being and mental health by targeting sleep with a digital gamified intervention


Mental health disorders are one of the major public health issues worldwide with an estimated 970 million people (one in ten) living with a mental health condition globally (Dattani et al., 2021). One symptom that many, if not all mental health disorders have in common, are sleep problems (Dattani et al., 2021; NEDA, 2021; NHS, 2019; NHS, 2018). Research now shows that improving sleep has already been shown to improve physical health, overall health-related quality of life and even reduce healthcare costs (Scott et al., 2021; Sampson et al., 2021; Kyle et al., 2010; Espie et al., 2008). The most common sleep disorders are insomnias, an umbrella term for a variety of sleep disorders (DGSM, 2017; Spiegelhalder et al., 2011). Currently, cognitive behavioural therapy for insomnia (CBT-I) is recommended as the first-line treatment for chronic insomnia in adults of all ages (ESRS, 2017). Despite its relative effectiveness, the recent pandemic highlighted the necessity to have digital solutions for sleep (Jahrami et al., 2021). Current available digital solutions for sleep do exist, but tend to lack engaging features such as gamification. When considering that gamification is grounded in behaviour change theory, the delivery of fun & engaging psychoeducational content to improve sleep through mobile applications becomes viable.

Project Objectives

Therefore, the project aims to develop a digital intervention, using Cognitive Behavioural Therapy for Insomia (CBT-I) as its scientific foundation, that combines aspects of gamificiation and education to help people improve their sleep.  


  • Develop a prototype game (“SleepyHead”) that offers a digital intervention for insomnia/sleep problems 
  • Translate an identified non-digital psychological intervention into a digital, gamified context and maintain scientific validity  
  • Adapt SleepyHead content and interaction for target group of young adults 
  • Offer feasibility evidence on the use of gamification techniques for sleep education 
  • Understand if young adults find gamified education acceptable in this format  



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Sampson, CJ., Bell, E., Cole, A., Miller, CB., Rose, J. (2021).   Digital cognitive behavioural therapy for insomnia and primary care costs in England: an interrupted time series analysis. medRxiv 2021. 

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